The big winner in the Likud primary contest was Gideon Saar, who finished in the top five, despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s strong opposition to his candidacy.
The top 10 positions on the Likud list were Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Gideon Saar, Culture Minister Miri Regev, Minister Yoav Galant, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, former Yershalayim Mayor Nir Barkat, Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel and MK Avi Dichter.
Netanyahu, as party chairman, is No. 1 on the list.
Saar is returning to politics after a six-year time-out. His showing is considered impressive considering Netanyahu’s long-running defamation campaign against him. In a social media message, Saar thanked supporters. “I see these results as my greatest political achievement, greater than the previous two times that I was chosen for the list,” he wrote. “The Likud has proven its commitment to democracy, and Likud members proved their wisdom and responsibility. The list we have chosen is responsible and talented, and worthy of leading Israel in the years to come.”
Netanyahu’s camp tried to put a positive spin on the results, saying that his goal was to keep Saar from ending up No. 1 on the list (after the prime minister).
In recent months Netanyahu supporters have accused Saar of conspiring with President Reuven Rivlin to recommend another Likud MK to the president to form a government after the election if the Likud wins, an accusation Saar has denied. On Monday, Netanyahu’s son Yair made the accusation again, saying that Saar and Rivlin are “looking for ways to get rid of my father.” Saar again denied the charge, saying that he would commit to recommending Netanyahu to form the government.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who finished in the top 20, said that Saar “deserves to be where he is. He was an excellent minister. All of the top five on the list are excellent candidates.”
Making it in the second set of 10 were Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Minister Ofer Akounis, Minister Chaim Katz, Tzipi Hotovely, Minister Yuval Steinitz, coalition chairman David Amsalam, MK Amir Ohana, MK Yoav Kisch and MK David Bitan.
Among the losers on the list were Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, MK Yehuda Glick and MK Oren Hazan, who ended up in unrealistic slots.